Route 66 Arizona by Arnie Cares

I WAS GOING TO WRITE about our trip along Historic Route 66, with only passing mention of our 2006 Audi A4 3.2L quattro. Unfortunately, our Audi decided it preferred things the other way around!

To start from the beginning, my wife and I talked for years about driving along Route 66 or what’s left of it! Starting in reverse order from the west (the original Route 66 went east to west), it begins at the Santa Monica Pier and heads east for 2,448 miles through eight states including California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Illinois, before ending on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, the original starting point. So in November 2011, we finally did the first leg of the trip, starting at the Santa Monica Pier and making it as far as Oatman, 20 miles over the California border into Arizona. Great trip, and our Audi, with 48,000 miles performed magnificently.

Fast forward now to May 2015. We picked up the trail in Oatman, an old mining town, where we had left off? in 2011, and planned to leisurely drive 400 miles to the New Mexico border before heading home. From Sunday through noon on Thursday, the trip was great: Oatman, Kingman, side trip to the Skywalk in the Grand Canyon, Grand Canyon Caverns, Seligman (hamburgers at the famous Delgadillo’s Snow Cap), Williams, side trip to Antelope Canyon in Page, then on to Flagstaff. So-so weather, occasionally cold and rainy (Skywalk was closed because of the lightning), but spectacular views of the mountains and canyons. At one point over 7,000 feet above sea level. Route 66 was an experience from decaying, abandoned buildings to restored sections of the original route. Interstate 40 and its four-lane divided highway and railroad tracks with mile-long freight trains running by every few minutes provided stark contrast to Route 66 that often ran parallel to both. We saw the Navajo Nation and other Native American tribes throughout the region.

We then headed to Walnut Canyon National Monument (incredible rock formations and ancient cliff? dwellings), when the red “coolant” warning light came up on our Audi’s dashboard. The car made it to the Walnut Canyon parking lot, then sensed it was ok to die and refused to start. The nearest Audi dealer was 150 miles away, but we found Findlay Volkswagen in Flagstaff?, just seven miles away. They had experience with Audis and trusted them with our car. ?Thanks to Jeff? Ford, Service Advisor, Ron Berry, Service Manager, and their staff? of technicians. Jeff? arranged for a tow truck and car rental, so despite an overnight interruption, we were able to continue on with our trip to Meteor Crater, Petried Forest and Painted Desert before returning home.

As it turned out, the radiator had a hole in it, causing all the coolant to leak out. Without coolant, serious damage could occur to the engine. Fortunately, Audi has a built in mechanism to prevent the car from starting without coolant, so no damage was done. Also, as it turned out, the fan had somehow separated from its connecting shaft and caused the hole. By now, the temperatures in Flagstaff? were in the 90’s and low 100’s, and our beloved Audi had some 82,000 miles on it, so the fan was no doubt working overtime to keep things cool but, in the end, gave out. Fortunately, our Audi Pure Protection—Audi’s extended warranty program—paid 100% of the repairs, and about a third of the incremental expenses including towing, car rental, hotel, and meals. State Farm picked up most of the rest under our rental car and emergency road service coverage.

With all of this happening just before the Memorial Day weekend, and with Findlay having to order Audi parts, the car was not ready for pick up until the end of the following week. We thus made the +/- 500 mile journey to Flagstaff? (second time in almost two weeks) to pick up the car. With our Audi back up and running like new—and to recover some of the lost time from the week before—we spent a delightful weekend in Sedona, a town near Flagstaff? surrounded by spectacular scenery of red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls, and pine forests.

So quite a trip, not what we were expecting! We’re already planning the next leg—the 400 miles across New Mexico. For anyone interested in Historic Route 66, you’ll find tons of resources on the web.